A former sales worker at Oracle is suing the vendor for damages "in excess of $150m" on allegations that the company "systematically stiffed" its workers out of owed commission payments.
Marcella Johnson, who worked for Oracle between 2013 and 2014, has filed a class-action complaint on behalf of herself and all other sales staff she claims are owed commission payments that have been "unlawfully withheld". In the case she claims that the database giant routinely reneged on the commission plans in workers' contracts "when they [yielded] commission earnings that are higher than Oracle would prefer to pay".
She alleges that, during her time in the vendor's employ, it regularly backtracked on previously agreed commission plans - sometimes even after payments had been made. The software firm would then, Johnson claims, coerce staff into accepting new, and less generous plans by threatening that, if they did not do so, they would not be paid anything at all.
"Even if a bold employee refuses to agree to an inferior re-plan, Oracle barrels ahead anyway, applying the re-plan terms to both past and future sales," states a document filed this week with the US District Court for Northern California.
In cases where commission has already been paid before being rescinded, employees find themselves either having to work without any commission payments while they pay off their debt to Oracle, or leave the company still owing potentially large sums of money, the case alleges. Johnson states that, while the changes to sales workers' remuneration plans might seem arbitrary, they are, in fact, part of a systematic process "led by the finance department and supported by sales operations and compensation department employees".
"Over the years Oracle has taken millions of dollars from commission wages to add to its bottom line," the case alleges.
Johnson wants the case brought to a jury trial, and is seeking a damages payment "in excess of $150m", as well as any statutory penalties and legal costs.
Deborah Hellinger, head of global corporate communications at Oracle, said: "Oracle categorically denies the allegations and we will vigorously defend against them."
In Johnson's own case, she claims that, having begun work in the Human Capital Management division of Oracle in March 2013, she received no commission until November of that year. But having been paid her first batches of commission, Oracle then "re-planned" her and applied the new terms retroactively, beginning from the start of its fiscal year at the on 1 June, she alleges. This reportedly left her about $20,000 in arrears to her employer.
As she could not afford to reimburse this sum, Johnson states that she felt forced to continue working for Oracle until she had earned enough commission under her new plan to pay back what she owed. Having done this, she resigned in June 2014.
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